Gold Coast's Trent McKenzie handballs in the tackle. Photo: Getty Images
GOLD COAST 6.1 8.7 14.12 20.14 (136)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.6 5.9 8.12 13.16 (94)
GOALS – Gold Coast Suns: Lynch 5 Hall 2 Rischitelli 2 Matera 2 Ablett 2 Swallow Shaw Lynch Broughton Prestia Day. Greater Western Sydney: Cameron 4 Patton 2 Hoskin-Elliott 2 Tomlinson Coniglio Ward Lamb Kennedy.
BEST – Gold Coast Suns: Ablett Swallow O’Meara Kolodjashnij Thompson Shaw. Greater Western Sydney: Shaw Ward Treloar Hunt Coniglio Hoskin-Elliott.
INJURIES – Gold Coast Suns: Nicholls (calf) replaced in selected side by Warnock. Umpires: Burgess Findlay Armstrong.
CROWD: 11,504 at Metricon Stadium.
Before this match, Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna said the duels between the Suns and fellow expansion team Greater Western Sydney would be to the next decade what the rivalry between Geelong and Hawthorn has been to the last one.
If that is the case, let's hope there are enough supporters who care enough about both teams, and about football, to watch them. An (alleged) 11,504 people showed up to Metricon to watch this game, on a beautiful autumn day, but while it was not a riveting contest, it did provide a glimpse of football's potential future.
Another three Brownlow votes for Gazza? Photo: Getty Images
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Lynch (5.1), Hall (2.2), Matera (2.2), Rischitelli (2.2), Stanley (2.1), Ablett (2.0), Prestia (1.1), Swallow (1.1), Broughton (1.0), Day (1.0), Shaw (1.0), Russell (0.1), Sumner (0.1)||Scorers||Cameron (4.0), Hoskin-Elliott (2.1), Patton (2.0), Coniglio (1.3), Ward (1.1), Kennedy (1.0), Lamb (1.0), Tomlinson (1.0), Hunt (0.2), Smith (0.2), Hampton (0.1), Plowman (0.1), Shaw (0.1)|
The fact that the Suns prevailed comfortably in the end was predictable enough. The Suns are a year ahead in physical development and football maturity, with their eyes on a possible finals berth; the Giants will do very well to climb out of the bottom four, despite their bright start to the season.
The Suns also have the marquee player their rivals have, as yet, been unable to land. Gary Ablett is still almost routinely the best player in any match in which he features; if he wins a third Brownlow this season, it would only just be to see his name feature alongside the game's fabled elite of Bob Skilton, Ian Stewart and Haydn Bunton.
Saturday was just another game for him: 30 disposals, 11 clearances and 11 tackles. He also kicked a goal only he could kick – gathering the ball 25 metres out, but covered on each side by opponents, he sprinted away from goal, twisting first to his right, then his left, then his right again. He was never going to miss.
In doing so, Ablett took Tom Scully, a former number one pick, to the cleaners. Scully is a good player but his eyes will have been widened by how far he has to go to match the competition's best. The most sobering part, for him, is that he may still be playing on Ablett several years from now.
The names underneath Ablett are becoming familiar, and almost as predictable. David Swallow played mostly in the centre and played like a bull at a gate throughout; Jaeger O'Meara got better the longer the match went on; and Tom Lynch, a tower of strength in the air, finished with a career-best five goals.
The Giants were again best served by their older players, Heath Shaw looking rejuvenated running out of the backline, and Josh Hunt working hard up forward. Jeremy Cameron took every advantage of his opportunities to kick four goals, winning his battle with Steven May.
Tom Boyd, though, was almost unsighted against Rory Thompson until he was substituted, and Jonathan Patton flipped between attack and defence. Thompson had also shouldered much of the ruck load for the Suns, with ruckman Tom Nicholls withdrawing due to a calf complaint.
In time, Boyd, Patton and Cameron will strike fear into any opposition (providing, of course, that GWS can hold onto them). But whereas the Suns' midfield have been waiting for their key position players to catch up, the reverse, to some extent, is true for the Giants, particularly the precocious Cameron.
Callan Ward led his side with aplomb to finish with 32 possessions, Adam Treloar had 28 and Shaw 27, and overall the Giants did not have a whole lot less of the ball. But the Suns went inside their attacking zone a whopping 71 times, a total no side could expect to successfully defend.
It was that aspect, more than anything, that disappointed Giants coach Leon Cameron.
“We sort of pride ourselves on trying to keep it under the 55, 60 mark, coming from last year [when it was] probably 60, 70, and unfortunately we just couldn’t stop it at times,” he said.
“Obviously they’ve got some good midfielders; their centre bounces hurt us a fair bit – they scored four or five goals from the centre bounce … to allow them three or four players that had 30-odd possessions, they were all midfielders. We got a little bit of the ball, but I thought they walked out of the centre a little too easily.”
The Giants’ No. 1 draft pick Tom Boyd finished the match early, nursing a sore wrist, but is not at this stage considered in doubt to play Port Adelaide next week.
For the Suns, coach Guy McKenna rated midfielder Harley Bennell and forward Charlie Dixon strong chances to return against North Melbourne.